Learning to Sell Through Storytelling

by: Mark Magnacca

Earning a prospect’s trust is essential when it comes to the art of the sale. It’s human nature to want to make a connection with the person we’re buying from – to feel like our needs are understood and that the sales rep cares about more than just a commission. Therefore, closing a deal depends on the salesperson’s ability to make a prospect feel as though their unique story is being heard.

The key here lies in understanding. As buyers, when we feel understood, communication with reps is more natural and we tend to feel a level of trust. Once trust is established, we are more open to hearing a sales rep’s story about how their product solves our business challenges. From there, we are able to say “yes” without feeling pushed.

Sell Stories, Not Products
One of the most effective ways of making sure sales reps don’t come off as untrustworthy is to ensure they are thinking about their company, their products and their potential customers as a collection of stories.

Jim Signorelli’sbook, StoryBranding, discusses how the key to winning over prospects is to think of the product and the company as a narrative that aligns with buyers’ stories. In his book, Jim notes that we are living in a time of unprecedented buyer knowledge and skepticism, and that many of the old methods of persuasion are no longer good enough. In order to close a deal, he points out, reps need to connect with buyers on an emotional level.

In almost all situations, people respond to great stories. Sales is no different. Sales reps must learn how to effectively encapsulate the value of what they are offering within the context of a prospect’s pain point, as this is the best way to truly connect with them.

Knowledge Sharing
But how can we improve the quality of the stories reps are telling? A first step is to establish an environment of collaboration among reps that encourages them to share winning stories, compelling language, and tips on objection handling with one another on a regular basis.

Storytelling is most effective when it comes, as the saying goes “straight from the horse’s mouth.” Therefore, managers should find ways to collect peer-generated insights that reps can easily refer to as a refresher whenever and wherever they need it. Leveraging this “tribal knowledge” allows the team to continually fine-tune, update, and even generate new stories that management can easily review and approve for use in the field.

However, this is not accomplished without challenges. Many modern sales teams are geographically dispersed, making knowledge-sharing among colleagues difficult. Additionally, for many organizations, the only way to share this information is using highly detailed, text-based documents and emails that are stored in central repositories.

Unfortunately, we knowthat the human brain processes text 60,000 times slower than visual information, so the effectiveness of any of the collective lessons learned is greatly diminished when reps must peruse text documents for self-study and performance improvement.

Not only is learning slower and message retention harder, but reps are far less likely to review the content in a text-based format. Furthermore, the non-verbal communication skills that are essential for telling a great story are lost in text documents.

Emphasis on Technology
Using technologies like mobile and video can help rectify some of the challenges associated with knowledge-sharing, specifically among dispersed teams. Regardless of location, teams can access peer-generated winning stories and strategies from a shared video library, organized by channels, allowing them to learn through insights and best practices from colleagues around the globe. With mobile-video sales learning platforms, individual reps anywhere in the world can access a goldmine of knowledge from top performers sharing tips and tricks they’ve picked up over the years.

Storytelling is just one tactic a rep can use to close a deal, but its impact in this era of the empowered buyer is immeasurable. The onus is now on organizations to effectively implement technology that provides access to everything sales representatives need to become masters of storytelling.

Mark Magnacca is president and co-founder of Allego, providers of a just-in-time learning platform that allows sales reps to absorb and master pitch consistency, and accelerate overall performance.